The Years Disappear, If Only Briefly

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, October 22, 2017, 11:20 a.m.

I never took a note. I never snapped a photo. I didn’t bring any business cards. I went to a football game.

By Monte Dutton

None of the above is unusual for most people. Oh, wait. Maybe it is. Sportswriters, or writers of any kind, for that matter, are not alone in writing, or taking pictures, or spreading the words and the images as far and wide as possible, anymore. Everyone knows the art of 140 characters. I just know the art beyond a little better.

It was Furman University homecoming. It was the first time in a while I’ve been back to clap to the fight song and sing the words I remember to the alma mater. A mountain city is her home / A mountain river laves her feet! Campus, beautiful though it be, is nestled in the foothills, and the mountain river, the Reedy, winds its way through downtown Greenville, where the campus was well over half a century ago. A manmade laaaaake laves her feet!

Most people maintain rich, loving memories of their school, and rally, sons and daughters dear / ’Round our dear alma maaahhhhter! Coincidentally, they are also prone to eating, drinking, and being merry.

One of my more impressive decisions was the realization that, though I loved it, I was really over my head playing football in high school. I was at Furman, first as a student and then working in the sports information office, for most of a decade that was well over three of them ago. It was the golden age of Paladin football, and I was fortunate to be friends with many of the giants who come back to walk the campus now. Mostly, they treat me as if I was somebody, too.

It’s been my impression that, at large schools, homecoming is, yes, a grand event, but still just another home game, the stadium no more packed than usual, though the big schools typically tilt the odds by playing a school they anticipate defeating, and homecoming may pack a house that otherwise might be fringed with empty seats.

The schools that I frequent – Furman, my dear alma maahhhter, and Presbyterian, the hometown college – are populated on homecomings with throngs of people who don’t get back every week but do so diligently for homecoming.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

The Paladins, coached now by Clay Hendrix, played the Mercer Bears, coached by Bobby Lamb. Clay and Bobby once played guard and quarterback, respectively, for a Furman team that advanced to the Division I-AA (now FCS) national championship game in 1985. They also played guard and quarterback, respectively, in high school down in Commerce, Georgia. Bobby is a former Furman head coach. Clay is in his first year, having been lured back to dear alma maahhhter this year from the Air Force Academy, where he coached the offensive line for 10 years and was associate head coach for seven.

It was a marvelous game. Furman won, 28-21, and it was in doubt until the final desperation Mercer aerial was intercepted in the end zone. Clay lost in the final seconds of each of his first two games as Furman head coach. Then North Carolina State throttled the Paladins, as expected. Now the team has won five straight games and is 4-1 in the Southern Conference.

(Monte Dutton photo)

Many drinks were hoisted. Many tales were told. The day was long and rewarding. Fifty-somethings became twenty-somethings. This the grueling nature of the weekend required.

I hesitate to mention names because I would leave some out, and I’m sure I’d have to mention a hundred to do it justice, plus, there’s the matter of my not taking any photos. I was weary when I got there because I had tramped around covering a fruitless high school game on the road the night before and didn’t get much sleep ruminating about it. My right knee and leg were acting up, so it probably helped, if not medically then subconsciously, to lubricate them. Perception may not be reality, but it helps.

Many tales, some with a considerable degree of truth, were told. I, in fact, told many of them. I renewed acquaintances with people I saw last month and people I saw last century. I drank beer from Costco and beer from Germany. Though the exemplary young men of today gave a concerted effort on offense and defense, Mercer’s fate was superstitiously sealed in a ritual imbibing of purple shots before the kickoff about two hundred yards from the sacred grounds of Paladin Stadium.

Clemson, South Carolina, and, yes, Presbyterian, were all off renewing their vigor for the succeeding weeks. Robbie Caldwell, now Clemson offensive line coach of growing legend, and I became friends when he was a Furman graduate assistant coach and I was an equipment manager. We hardly talked at all about the Tigers. We talked about the time we had to hot-wire the van to get back from Appalachian State.

The first time I met Sam Wyche, I was picking up a box of chinstraps from his (and Billy Turner’s) sporting-goods store on Poinsett Highway. He went on to lead the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl. Jimmy Satterfield, the coach who led the Paladins to the national championship in 1988, was there, and it was the first time this century I talked to him.

Good friends. Great oldies. I could have walked up the hill and partied all night long, but I opted for the security and predictability of home. I wouldn’t trade the day for a literary agent and a publishing deal, but it’s the day after now, and they sure would be nice.

 

(Gabe Whisnant photo)

Most of my books — non-fiction on NASCAR and music, collections that include my contributions, seven novels, and one short-story collection — are available here.

 

Not the Best of Evenings

(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, September 30, 2017, 11:02 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The football perspective is different for the coach, the player, the writer, the fan in the stands, and the one following the game on social media.

Duh.

One tries to be mindful. For instance, the writer is in danger of missing the beauty of the forest because he spends most of his time counting the trees. A man can get lost scribbling such poetry as “1-10-Ch42, 1 +7, MTs at the line.”

In standard English, Chapman’s D.J. Twitty gained seven yards on first down, and Clinton missed a chance to tackle him for no gain.

That happened a lot last night in the Panthers’ 48-18 victory over the Red Devils.

Keith Richardson Field seemed vast when Chapman had the ball. The Panthers, and, in particular, quarterback Colton Bailey, found wide, open spaces. It looked like Montana. When Clinton had the ball, it was Delaware. It’s not a precise metaphor. The field is flat. Montana is rocky.

It wasn’t particularly shocking. Chapman – undefeated, reigning 3A champion, ranked No. 1 in the state – defeated the locally beloved Red Devils, 48-18. It was 20-12 at halftime. In a loss, Clinton rushed for 254 yards and put two backs, Kris Holmes and Mark Wise, over 100. The Panthers are the best they’ve ever been. They have their act down. They frustrate their opponents with what seems like cleverness on their sideline and chicanery on the other.

History will favor cleverness.

Life Gets Complicated, Lightning in a Bottle and Cowboys Come Home are available at Emma Jane’s and L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton.

Chapman’s victory was richly deserved. It just didn’t seem like a game one team won by 30 points.

With the outcome decided, and the reliable expectation that B.J. Gardner would email the stats, the writer had the luxury of watching the end of the game in the way he will watch tonight’s game between the colleges of Wofford and Presbyterian, the latter of which also resides here.

Holmes and Wise made some rather unbelievable runs in which they kept pushing forward, even while immersed and almost hidden by a gang of Chapman tacklers. What was happening was that the defense wasn’t really trying to tackle the ballcarrier as much as it was trying to pry the ball loose. Rather than shoving the runner down, one player would try to hold the runner up, grasping his armpits, while others tore away at the precious object of possession.

It reminded me of Andy Griffith’s recording, “What It Was Was, Was Football,” which was about a rube who found himself at a football where, as best he could figure, two gangs got in a big fight over which one got to keep the pumpkin.

Yes. Clinton lost three fumbles. The Red Devils advanced across their small field – boom, boom, boom! – in something akin to a military attack. Then the Panthers dashed through, scampered around, sprinted past, and outflanked the increasingly demoralized Red Devils, who missed tackles galore, and, once in the third quarter, actually managed to turn a Chapman runner toward the middle of the field instead of “losing contain,” as coaches say.

The frustration was understandable. The writer even felt it.

In the first six games of the season, Clinton, a 3A school, has already played one 5A school, two 4A’s and the state’s top-ranked 2A. The Red Devils play a tough schedule because of a history of being even tougher than such opponents. Now the Region 3-3A schedule has begun. Clinton (2-4, 0-1) can make the playoffs by defeating Mid-Carolina, Woodruff, and either Newberry or Broome. Such is the prevailing charitable standard that 3-2 will surely earn a playoff bid (as last year) and 2-3 might.

The writer got home, cropped some photos, typed in stats, tried to make some sense of what had happened, and, after sleeping on it, resumed the quest this morning.

Last night Laurens Academy edged Newberry Academy, 64-63, presumably thanks to a long jumper at the buzzer. Upon hearing this news, the writer thought first that he was glad he didn’t have to type in those stats – God forbid keeping up with them – and then wondered if a game was ever decided because the fellow operating the scoreboard lost count.

These thoughts were the last ones that flickered through the writer’s mind as he fell asleep before Washington State completed its 30-27 upset of Southern California on the television.

 

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

 

(Steven Novak design)

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Life Gets Complicated, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise). Or, just drop me a line and you can pay through PayPal.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written seven novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.

Life Gets Complicated follows Barrie Jarman as he moves up to FASCAR’s premier series. He and Angela Hughston face discrimination for their interracial love affair, and Barrie has to surmount unexpected obstacles that test his resolve.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

Write me at hutdut@duttonm@bellsouth.net or “message” me through social media.